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Double-11 (Part 2): Douyin — Beyond Tmall & JD.COM and why it matters to brands

2020-11-16 8 minute read China

Douyin Chongfenjie artwork from 2020 Single's Day festival

For many overseas brands and exporters that eye China, e-commerce is one of the most advantageous ways to reach their target consumer in China. When looking at their strategy, businesses should not forget that there is much more to China’s platform economy than the two online retail giants.

The online B2C retail industry for years has been dominated by Alibaba and JD.COM, this year these two giants jointly captured nearly 90% of the total sales volume during the Double-11 shopping season. Not far behind them is the third largest player, Pinduoduo, rapidly increasing its market share with their number of active consumers already surpassing that of JD.COM.

This won’t stop other players — large and small — from seizing the opportunities of China’s rapidly evolving Platform Economy, especially in 2020 when the importance of e-commerce has been further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

There is a growing number of players rapidly increasing their market share, as well as new players filling new niches in the e-commerce sector. Many of those platforms (some of which include major brick-and-mortar retailers that were hit by the pandemic) are joining the Double-11 festival each year. Despite being overshadowed by the two giants in terms of GMV, these players are worth watching as they often introduce new and innovative forms and ways of capturing the audience and generating sales.

Performance of these platforms during this year’s festival not only demonstrates that the Double-11 popularity is still growing after 12 year in running, it also provides a unique window into the upcoming trends.

Such insights are invaluable for any brand that is seeking market entry, or expansion into China.

During this year’s Double-11 festival, we’ve seen strong performance from a number of platforms outside of the Alibaba & JD.COM ecosystems, with the most notable ones being:

  • Douyin 抖音 — a video-sharing social networking platform (outside of China mostly known for its international version, TikTok)
  • Suning.com 苏宁易购 — a chain of brick-and-mortar stores and a dedicated e-commerce platform
  • Mogujie 蘑菇街 — a social media and e-commerce platform with a mission to “Make fashion accessible to everyone”

In this article we are taking a brief look at this year’s Double-11 activities on Douyin.


Douyin 抖音, a video-sharing social networking platform, has held its own Singles’ Day shopping event under the banner of “Pamper Festival” (宠粉节).

The event was extended to run from 25 October until midnight on 11 November. It attracted KOLs and web celebrities to share product related content through short videos and live-streaming.

The event generated a total sales (GMV) of 15.2bn yuan (USD $2.30bn).

The top selling categories and products were:

  • Women’s & Men’s Wear (women tops, socks, hoodie)
  • Food & Drinks (snacks, biscuits, instant food)
  • Daily Necessities (small kitchen appliances, daily use products, toothpaste)
  • Skincare (beauty masks, serum, hand cream)
  • Jewellery & Accessories (necklaces, watches, hair accessories for children)
  • Cosmetics (lipstick, eyeliner, foundation)
  • Shoes & Hats, Bags & Luggage (women’s bags, women’s boots, men’s shoes)
  • Baby & Mum (children’s clothes, baby dippers, wet wipes)

About the platform

Douyin 抖音 (officially Douyin Short Video / 抖音短视频), owned by ByteDance (Beijing ByteDance Technology Co Ltd), was originally launched in September 2016 and is dedicated for the Chinese audience. Outside of China it is more known under its international version — TikTok. TikTok was launched in 2017 and released worldwide in August 2018 when it was merged with another Chinese social media service Musical.ly.

Douyin and TikTok are separate products, and although these have similar user interface, the features they offer are not identical with Douyin having more advanced features that could be seen as a preview of what’s to come for TikTok. Both are used to create short music, lip-sync, dance, comedy and talent videos, as well as short looping videos. However, Douyin was the first to incorporate e-commerce and social-commerce functionality and it also includes a built-in shopping cart feature. Douyin also includes an experimental live-streaming feature and offers full-length movies. These features are yet to make their way into TikTok.

Douyin’s e-commerce platform is one of the fastest-growing arms of the company, and it is projected (unofficial) to hit 150bn yuan (USD $22.7bn) in GMV this year. Douyin’s closest rival, Kuaishou 快手, reported its e-commerce GMV for the first half of 2020 at 109.6bn yuan (USD $16.6bn).

The bottom line

China’s e-commerce ecosystem is arguably largest in the world, it is extremely well developed, innovative, and it never stands still.

Although Tmall and JD.COM are very important, there are many others that often suit certain product categories better, with more targeted approach and lower barrier to entry for many brands — particularly those that are keen to invest in brand building in the Chinese market.

For any brand that is seeking market entry, or expansion into China, such online platforms pose an invaluable and unique opportunity to reach the target Chinese consumer, quickly, and effectively. This is especially true for some vertical platforms that operate in lucrative niche categories and demographics, where it is possible to target consumers with a razor-sharp focus and a high conversion success rate.

Talk to ACOLINK’s team to find out more, we help brands and exporters enter and grow in the Chinese market with our services that range from support on market entry strategies, through market research, lead-generation and prospecting, to fully managed solutions where we act as your highly experienced export sales team.